Teach Your Children Well

2 11 2012
Kids at Max's Bar Mitzvah

My children at Max’s Bar Mitzvah (Max is in the middle)

What is the origin of your personality?  It is the classic nature/nurture question.  Were you born with the spirit to solve problems and build businesses or were you the product of your environment?

The goal oriented-persistent-creative problem solver-positive thinking-innovator-empathetic-leader-learner I have become is a result of 85% nurture and 15% nature.

How would I describe the environment of my upbringing?  Imgaine…

  • A father who pursued many businesses until he turned one of his ideas into the national success it has become today.
  • A mother who, in addition to hitting the glass ceiling in corporate America, worked tirelessly with my father, her father and her daughter in their respective family businesses.
  • A father praising his employees for their efforts and results and spoke about them with adoration.
  • The topic of “Business” almost every night as part of regular conversation at the dinner table.
  • Questions asked by children and answered by parents, perhaps hundreds.  No question was off limits.
  • Parents debating about business problems and listing possible solutions.  Hearing them resolve their differences and agreeing on decisive action.
  • Parents dreaming together and sharing dreams with their children.  Having big dreams, very big dreams.
  • A father speaking of his wish of someday working with his son/daughter.
  • A father speaking about building an empire, even when his business was fledgling and but a fraction of its size today.
  • A mother’s giving words of confidence to her children, with an unending belief and expectation for them to reach their potential.

As a young man, I wanted to work with my father in the same office.  I envisioned sitting across the huge “partners” desk and discussing the greatness, problems, opportunities and challenges facing our organization.  I believed, as a result of the role models in my home, I was shaped as an employee, owner, partner and son of Stanley H Sussman and Janice K Sussman.  They set the table for my future and gave me the appetite to eat the delicious fare.  They gave me confidence to pursue my dreams (and theirs) as part of the business they built together.  And they became perfect role models for me to follow as my three children now look to me to learn and understand the very same lessons.  So I teach them about the beauty of the family business; the beauty and rewards of pursuing greatness with family.

Think about your children.  What do they hear from you at night about work or your company?  How do you depict your business to them?  What stories do you tell?  How much do you share about your issues (good and bad) at work?  Are your children encouraged to ask questions?  Do you provide full answers to their questions?  Do you dream big with them?  Is debate okay?  Do you tell your children you wish to work with them?  Do they really know your thoughts about working together?  Do your children know your expectations for them?  Do you give your children realistic yet positive messages?

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